...so Louis van Gaal really needs to get his thinking cap on. Does he abandon his favourite formation to make room for Adnan Januzaj? It's also big for Arsenal's Germans and Big Sam.
After the departures of Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and Thibaut Courtois to Chelsea, plenty are saying Atletico Madrid won't retain their title. Tim Stannard thinks otherwise...
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A Whole Five Pounds
Dear Aston Villa,
If you really really try your hardest and pull something out of the bag tonight, I will personally send you a cheque that will double your transfer kitty for the summer.
Desperate Man Clutching at Straws
Liverpool Have Underachieved
Whilst I think they've done tremendously well this season, in the context of where they actually got to, I think if they don't go on to win it then it will be an underachievement. For the following very simple reason:
He's surely one of the top 5 players in the world at the moment you've got to say. I honestly think if he played for any of the other top 7 teams, they would have walked the league (even Everton, Spurs and Man.....well ok maybe not UTD). Fact is, the guy is a beast. But when you add Sturridge's goals and assists to the package, then how they haven't won the league is beyond me (well ok, it's their defence, but roll with me here).
Can you imagine Suarez up front for City, Chelsea, or Arsenal? They would've walked it in my mind, because they can defend. Everton would probably be top if they had Suarez there to finish off all their pretty moves.
So yes, whilst they've had a splendid season no doubt, they have ultimately underachieved in the context of the season. To be in control of their own destiny before the Chelsea game and to not go on and win it is inexcusable when you have Suarez, in this season's form, in the team. Think of Ronaldo in his peak, or Henry - yes the team around them was great but they dragged their teams to titles with goals. Even Aguero a couple of seasons ago, when he was in fine form and avoided injury. World class players like these (should) make the difference. Suarez (and Sturridge) has had the season of his life yet still it might not be enough for Liverpool.
So why haven't they? Simple - Brendan. Too obtuse and thinks himself above common, dastardly arts such as defending. They didn't have to become a "defending team" against Chelsea, they just needed to be astute enough to realise that Chelsea would sit back regardless, so all they needed to to was be patient and draw them out. If they didn't manage to do that, then it wouldn't have mattered anyway as a draw would've been enough.
So yer - basically, A for effort, but with a bit more applied thought it could easily have been an A*.
Still, I guess it's "not about winning", apparently. Easy to say that when you rarely win though I guess!
I know the gongs have been handed out and Luis is using them to gather his tears after Monday night but I would like to take the opportunity to nominate the true "player" of the year.
Yes Suarez has been wonderful, gifted, redeemed, sublime but at the end of the day what will he have achieved? Nowt. As Shankley said first is first, second is nowhere. Surely the player of the year should be the one with the biggest impact on their club and the league. To this end I nominate Robin Van Persie.
Seeing his now beloved Manchester United taken over by the clueless David Moyes, RVP acted in the only way he could. With the years slipping by on his career he knew that if the Moyesiah was to remain in situ for the next 2-3 years then his most likely shot at glory would be gone. RVP looked around him and saw Fergie's legacy under threat and a Manchester United in danger of terminal mediocrity. Being Fergie's true disciple he knew that winning is everything and so he knew the only way to win was to lose, spectacularly.
In playing like a drain for the whole season Robin risked his personal reputation, World Cup spot, adoration of the fans and player of the year award to achieve his goal: Moyes out. Yes it sounds cruel written like that but it wasn't at all, Robin knew what had to be done and he did the necessary. Some Manu players saw his lead and had the courage to follow, although understandably without the same conviction as Robin. Yes he could have spent the whole year trying to get on the end of the many crossed flying past his face but Robin steeled his resolve, untensed his neck muscles and said, No, this shall not be. And it was not. Job done.
At the seasons end Suarez, Toure and to some extent Rooney are earning the plaudits for their play throughout the year; but look and see now RVP with a pep in his step and a quiet knowing smile on his lips that says, game on.
RVP you're my MVP. Bravo.
Various sources 'understand' that Louis van Gaal is pretty much already United's next permanent manager, which since Giggs screwed me by benching Mata against Hull (he was my captain on the Fantasy Football and that d*** move might cost me £100 nicker) I am all for the change.
Martin Samuel and the rest of the hack pack (the large and hairy types) will fall in love with him and his inevitably quotable rants at officials and rivals, which will be handy. There is also a possibility that he will punch His Royal Rooneyness square in the face should he make any more demands, another plus.
It's been a while since I remember van Gaal on the club scene, we were knocked out by his Munchen side after a typically Champions League style second yellow for Rafael (I think he coughed or something) and Robben bagging a sexual winning volley back when we were still pretty decent and Nani could actually play football. Van Gaal's Bayern attacked us pretty relentlessly, aside from a dodgy first 45 mins in the second leg, so if he carries on in that vein, which reports of his management suggest that he will, I think he will be a welcome tonic to the dour defencey-passy rubbish Moyes has served up this season.
We do need some players though, last Summer was depressing - it was the hope more than anything that killed. After years of craving quality in the centre we were on the verge of signing Thiago, then Fabregas, then Ander (don't actually know if he's good but he's Spanish which has to count for something) before eventually getting lumbered with the mess of hair and legs that is Marouane Fellaini. That picture of Moyes and Fellaini holding up his United shirt in a post-transfer glow now sends shivers down my spine.
According to the papers we will sign 78% of Bayern's first team, which seems unlikely, however at least LVG should have some pull in the Bundesliga if that's where we're casting our transfer rod. Personally I would send bucket loads of cash and Shinji Kagawa Dortmund's way and ask for Marco Reus in return because he is the best footballer in history but whatever the outcome, I'm much more confident LVG can draw the players we need than Moyes or even Giggs.
Smyth, MUFC (If you do not believe that Marco Reus is the best footballer in history, I will fight you)
After Chelsea beat Liverpool the Sunday before last and effectively handed the title to Man City, it got me thinking about how one result can significantly alter the future of a given club. As this season has proven it would be foolish to presume that the title is now City's, but if for arguments sake we say that City go on to win the League from this position, you can pinpoint Gerrard's slip and that 2-0 defeat as one of the defining moment in Liverpool's history. Win that game and in all likelihood the title is theirs. Having seemingly passed on the opportunity, will Liverpool have a better chance to win the league in years to come? What implications will that defeat have on their immediate future? Is it the difference between their best players staying or leaving? Attracting the world's elite or a rung below that? Restoring an old reputation or tarnishing it further? You get the picture.
So, my question to you mailbox is if you could change one result in your club's history, what would it be? For me, I would be severely tempted to choose the 2006 Champions League Final. Reverse that result and Arsenal would have become one of the elite, a super club and the first club in London to win Europe's ultimate prize. Imagine the high of moving into the Emirates as European Champions. I honestly think our recent past would have been significantly different had we won that game. That's the fine margins football lives on. Your turn.
As a Southampton fan, I've found myself pretty deflated at the end of a season in which we have reached a record premier league points total! Our season was finished in Mid Februry after we got knocked out of the F.A Cup against Sunderland, and I think it's pretty inevitable we are going to lose at least 2 of our key players this summer, if not our manager too. I understand that we have an incredible academy, and consistantly produce talented players, but these only get pillaged by the the bigger boys after a couple of good seasons...
This to me, begs the question, what is actually the point of the Premier League unless you're following one of the big money teams? Have a team like Southampton hit their ceiling?
I've spent most of the second part of the season cheering on Palace with my house mate just to keep me interested in the league, and as much as I want to see Lallana, Lambert, and possibly Shaw on the plane to Rio, it's still not enough to really the get the blood pumping!
Following Saints throughout their ascent from League 1 back to the top flight actually makes me envious of clubs who have something to play for. Seeing Wolves take 9000 to MK Dons a little while back got me all nostalgic, and in my opinion, the journey to the Premier League was unquestionably better than the destination.
Craig, London via Southampton.
It's been said a few times before but Daniel Sexton's email that said "Liverpool have been the best thing about this season" is, in my opinion, a tired myth restricted to their fans and the tabloid media.
This is not meant to be bitter or an 'end of season awards' but here are the top 10 things I enjoyed more:
1) Man U's fall from grace under David Moyes (obviously)
2) Yaya Toure
3) Aaron Ramsey's revival (I hope even non-Arsenal fans are happy he's got his career back on track following such an 'unfortunate' injury)
4) F365 says/mailbox/top 10/16 conclusions and the rest (I love you guys - another great performance!)
5) The over the top optimism following Man U's European Victories/signing of Juan Mata/replacing Moyes with Giggs and their subsequent (and largely inevitable) fall from grace again
6) Tony Pulis' magic trick with Crystal Palace
7) Roberto Martinez showing he can cut it towards the top end of the table
8) Atletico shaking it up in La Liga
9) John Terry crying and deferring interviews to Cahill when the opportunity arises
10) Tim Sherwood's approach to tactics (brilliantly summed up by the mail containing the conversation with Les Ferdinand - unfortunately I can't name drop you but that, sir, was pure genius!)
It's been another great season and we still have the World Cup to look forward to!
Laurence Garrod, AFC
Costa Bravo (Apologies)
Amongst all the title-blowing and clinching that has gone on this week, there is one moment of real significance in football. That is the appointment of Helena Costa as the manager of Clermont in Ligue 2. This is a historic choice, one that the clubs generic statement "we hope this will be the start of a new era" does not completely cover. Costa is an experienced coach, having worked with Benfica in the past, and has also worked extensively in Iran. The fact that managerial appointment in the French second tier has received significant webspace on the BBC underlines the stigma and rarity of female presence in the mens game and I for one wish her and the club all the best.
Many people I spoken too and commenters on the the internet have praised the bravery of the decision and also wished good in a way that would not occur were this a male Ligue 2 manager change. Although it is refreshing to see such goodwill I hope this is a stepping stone that will lead to less stigma around women and make events such as this far more common. The same applies to gay footballers and managers. This sport has the power to be accepting and open to everyone and most crucially reflect this into the watching public. A team wins the title every year, for good or bad depending on who you support. I think we can all agree that events such as Costa's appointment are good for all.
The Big Question
If the US man was allowed to marry his porn-filled laptop, would that mean he'd then sneak into the spare room to have a quick 5 minute shag with a real woman whenever the laptop wasn't paying attention?